Women are being advised by health experts to avoid getting a mammogram, if possible, while they're in between coronavirus vaccinations.

It'd be best, they say, to wait a number of weeks following the second dose before receiving an X-ray of the breast because one potential side effect of the COVID-19 shots mimics breast cancer symptoms that may lead to a false positive.

"Both the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine can cause lymph nodes to swell, just as a result of an immune reaction," said Dr. Arnold Baskies, clinical professor of surgery at Rowan School of Medicine, and chairman of the American Cancer Society Global Cancer Control Advisory Council. "Mammograms can find things not only in the breast but also under the arm."

Based on reports of such issues by select individuals, and believing that the problem is actually more widespread than the reports suggest, the Society of Breast Imaging is recommending that patients and providers "schedule screening exams prior to the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination or 4-6 weeks following the second dose."

"If you see swollen lymph nodes in the mammogram, that can then lead to the need for biopsy," Baskies said. "It makes sense to try to dissociate the two things."

SBI said their recommendation should be followed "if possible, and when it does not unduly delay care."

According to American Cancer Society, women "at average risk" for breast cancer have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year between the ages of 40 and 44, and it's recommended that women aged 45 to 54 in the "average risk" category be screened every year. Women 55 and older can switch to an every-other-year routine.

Women "at high risk" should get a breast MRI and mammogram every year, typically starting at age 30, according to ACS.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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